Revised rules reflect heightened interest in solar power

Updated rules to address trends and advancing technology for solar energy in Lake County and its communities will be up for public discussion Tuesday.

The Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals is hosting a hearing at 2 p.m. at the county's division of transportation office, 600 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville to consider proposed changes.

The updated zoning rules involve various types and aspects of solar energy systems for residential, business and institutional uses in unincorporated Lake County. The goal is to create a model ordinance that can be used by all communities.

A Solar Energy Task Force comprised of representatives of the county's planning, building and development department and representatives from 18 communities with input from solar energy experts has been discussing the guidelines for more than a year.

Solar installations have been allowed in the unincorporated area under the county's jurisdiction but interest has surged because of recently introduced state incentives and emerging technology. With that, officials wanted to provide clarity on available options and how to implement them and to modernize regulations to align with new technology.

"The biggest thing is to address the new trend of solar development, which is ground-mounted systems," said Hannah Mulroy, the county's interim sustainability manager. "It updates and adds additional detail."

"We've received interest from many residents and businesses wanting to use solar power, so it's important to have the ability to regulate height and security features and to ensure solar facilities are properly designed and installed," she added.

Visit the document center at for details on the proposed changes.

"The whole reason for doing this is to help our 52 communities in Lake County implement solar energy on a larger scale," said county board Member John Wasik of Grayslake. "You can't expect every municipality to have their own set of rules."

According to Mulroy, many local communities have been contacted by developers asking to install solar arrays on public land and facilities, such as schools, parks and municipal property.

As a result, the county also is working with local communities to host solar projects in a joint procurement opportunity. The action is expected to result in lower costs while powering government facilities with renewable energy.

Wasik, vice chairman of the board's energy and environment committee, said the county as a general policy wants to use more renewable energy and is studying several ways to lower its carbon footprint.

He added that committee meetings are open and previous sessions are available online.

"We want the process to be transparent and we want a lot of input," he said.

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